It is often said that the golden age of film and television is long gone, and that only toxic sequels and prequels are being funded. Birdman Staring Michael Keaton and Edward Norton proves this to be false.
Birdman is one of the best movies of the recent years, and rightfully won the 2015 Oscar for best picture. Many were upset that this complex film won in this highly competitive category this year. The Grand Budapest Hotel, Boyhood, Whiplash, all these amazing films were up against Birdman for best picture.
While these other films are also amazing, Birdman has something special. From the standpoint of a film maker and Cinematographer, this movie is unbelievable. The movie is made to look like it was filmed in one long take, and while this has been attempted in the past, it has never been as beautiful as in Birdman.
The director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, chose this difficult style of filming to connect to the theme of the story, a stage play. There aren't any noticeable cuts in Birdman just as if the story was being acted out live on a stage.
Whats so difficult about this you may ask?
In film making, the production team has the luxury of being able to take hundreds to thousand of shots for just a few minutes of dialog. They choose the ones they favor, and eliminate the rest. When you have 15 minute long takes, as they were in Birdman, you need to get it right the first try.
This film also was on a tight shooting schedule. They rented the St. James Theater in New York for a month, they used 3 weeks of that time to block the movements of actors, and then the final week to actually film. This meant when it was time to get in front of the camera, everything had to be perfect.
Even before rehearsals started, all of the actors had to be memorized, for there was little room for improvisation in the script. Ed Norton said that they didn't deviate from the script at all while filming because it was such a tight script. This is rare in film, directors often give room for actors to occasionally improv a scene that felt out of place. This didn't happen at all in Birdman, the script was too perfect as it was.
Memorizing lines is also something that most film actors don't worry about, since the takes are so short, they can be fed the line and then regurgitate it back to the camera, and then completely forget about it. With 15 minute takes, these actors had to have every single line down perfectly, along with the movements of the camera.
This film has been described as a tango, a perfect choreography between actors and the film crew. The camera crew was just as stressed, if not more so, than the actors. They had to know their marks and hit those marks every single time without room for error.
This goes for the actors as well. It had to be so perfectly timed, that Michael Keaton said he was counting his footsteps during almost every shot, to make sure that he was in the right spot at the right time.
This film was a masterpiece, and this is from a technical aspect. Now the team didn't just manage to achieve this one take look, they knocked it out of the park with a kick-ass storyline to go along with it. This movie defies modern rules in film. The story is something unlike anything else being made.
There are multiple stories running along at the same time, each being equally as compelling. This film has many themes being thrown at the viewer that will make you leave the theater speechless.
This movie really makes you think. Not in a horrible Inception sort of way, but instead in amazement. This film will change the way you look at film and storytelling.
I compare the feeling of leaving the theater the same way you felt after the first time you saw Fight Club. Interesting to note a common theme between the two films? Edward Norton. Coincidence?
In a time when you can predict the ending a movie within the first few minutes, a movie like this is refreshing. You are taken on this roller coaster ride, and you have no idea where it will go next. This movie is exciting, beautiful, and hilarious.
Well done Alejandro Inarritu, Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, and the rest of the cast and crew. This movie shows the world that yes, great films are still being made.